An Interview with Rose Jaffe Photo by Michael Andrade.

“I just want to draw all the time,” Rose Jaffe (BFA '11) says, and she means it — whether it’s in her studio, on the street, in the classroom, in the nation’s capital, or on a wall near you. Luckily for Rose and the world(s) she draws in and on, she has both the energy and the curiosity to find forms and forums for her work.

Although she grew up in the capital city, Rose was pretty certain she was headed elsewhere after graduation from Stamps. And, while she only thought of her home city of Washington DC as a last resort, she has fallen pretty hard for the city over the two years since she has been back.

“Part of what makes DC a special place to be for an energetic Creative,” Rose confirms, “is that, unlike NYC or LA, you can quickly get a good hold on some version of an art scene by building a network of friends who are eager to make something happen together.” For Rose, getting a studio enabled her to meet a community of artists, who in turn welcomed her as part of their circle, incorporating her and her work into group shows in the first year after college.

“Ill Street Blues”, 2013. Click to view larger images.

Making her own studio was something Rose loved her senior year at Stamps. She loved creating that place where she wanted and needed to be, and where she, along with her peers, set their own standards and expectations for what it meant to be self-directed artist/designers. With the studio, Rose added, the first challenges and questions were, “well, what is this space, what can it do for me and what can I do there?” and it became an opportunity to answer those questions for ourselves.” At a certain point in the fall of her senior year, “once all your stuff has migrated to the studio,” Rose pinpointed, “that is when the future seems boundless.”

Growing up in DC, Rose was aware of the political weight and context of culture and daily life—her dad is a writer for Washingtonian magazine, and Rose did political cartoons in high school. As the city has morphed and shifted, the marks and effects of gentrification are visible both through the neighborhood transformation and realtors’ use of terms like “up and coming” to describe an area. Along with this comes a new awareness of what it means to be part of a growing artists community that is not without its connection to these changes. “Middle-class, white people are moving east — for instance, my studio is in Northeast… a place as a kid we only used to drive by to get to the stadium,” Rose explains (for the non DC residents here). “Union Market, around the corner from my studio, is all spruced up. And while there are lots of opportunities for hipsters and artists and the DIY scene, you can’t help but think about who gets displaced.”

“Pretty Women”. Click to view larger images.

Now, as someone who has made a conscious decision to live in and engage with the city, Rose is continually activated by social and political questions. Part of this was fueled by her time at Michigan and her interest in and exposure to questions facing Detroit through the course Detroit Connections, and Scott Kurashige’s Urban Studies class in LS&A . “Art school at the University of Michigan allowed me to spread my wings in the way I wanted to — I feel really lucky to have had access to a small creative community within a large University and all its resources.” That aspect of her education provoked her to become an artist who, as she describes it, is now “100 percent on it — once you are on the political train, it's like getting involved with a story you have to keep reading.”

Click to view larger images.

Rose initially thought she would get a very traditional art education at Michigan, and was planning to transfer to a school like RISD. But after seeing the investment by her professors in their work and teaching, “I gave in and trusted, and my view changed 180 degrees in those conceptual classes - they made the experience really special.”

Rose’s work continues to grow in scale and scope as she embraces her political engagement and opportunities to be part of both gallery and street art scenes. Along with a vigorous studio practice, Rose teaches at Parkmont School in northwest DC, a school with 50 kids grades 6-12 (there are 2 seniors). It’s an alternative school that embodies a lot of what makes the city a captivating cosmopolitan experience for a voracious, creative mind. Rose’s classroom is a mix of ages, races, and socio-economic classes: a one room schoolhouse. With a total of 9 staff (including teachers), Rose’s job is hands on — from teaching to running the school’s intern program. At school all day, with a Monday night yoga class, (“my alignment for the week,”, Rose jokes) she is at the studio late most nights.

With a growing presence in the DC street art scene, solo shows at spaces such as Veracruz, political art projects with DC groups such as Sanaa, and a strong body of commissioned work as an illustrator (Rose started working for Triple Anvil Press in Ann Arbor doing Shakespeare watercolors while she was still a senior), Rose Jaffe is drawing her own directions full of scale and possibility.

For more info on Rose Jaffe, visit



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